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LOST HUNTER SURVIVED ON SQUIRRELS

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO - The 72-year-old hunter who was lost for more than two weeks in a California forest survived by eating squirrels and other animals he shot with his rifle, and by making fires and packing leaves and grasses around his body to stay warm, his family said Monday.

Gene Penaflor of San Francisco was found Saturday in Mendocino National Forest by other hunters who carried him to safety in a makeshift stretcher, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.

Penaflor disappeared Sept. 24 after heading out with a partner during the first week of deer hunting season in the mountains of Northern California, a trip he takes annually. The forest is about 160 miles north of San Francisco.

"He goes hunting every year, and he comes home every year," his daughter-in-law Deborah Penaflor said Monday outside Gene Penaflor's small home in the Bernal Heights neighborhood. "We'd gotten a little complacent that he would always come back."

Gene Penaflor separated from his hunting partner for a couple of hours as usual to stalk deer. While they were apart, Gene Penaflor fell, hit his head and passed out, Deborah Penaflor said.

He woke up after spending what appeared to be a full day unconscious, with his chin and lip badly gashed. He noticed fog and morning dew and realized he'd been out for a while, Deborah Penaflor said.

The Sheriff's Office said an initial search was called off when a storm was on its way. The search was reactivated Saturday, and he was found about 3 miles from where he disappeared.

Gene Penaflor arrived home Sunday looking weak.

"I didn't panic because panic will kill me right away. I knew that," Gene Penaflor said to a KTVU-TV reporter upon his arrival home.

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